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Educators reflect on Teacher Appreciation Week

SALISBURY – Kelly Hain has seen 32 Teacher Appreciation Weeks come and go in her time in the field, but this one is special.

“We’ve had such a crazy year,” Hain said.

Hain, kindergarten teacher at Hurley Elementary School, said teaching during a pandemic has been challenging, but it has also been one of her most rewarding years.

She said the cohorts students spent all last semester and most of this semester in gave teachers smaller classes to work with and forced them fit as much instruction as they could in the two days they saw the cohorts each week. The kids come in and are excited to be there, but not everything about the year has been good.

“I’m a hugger and it’s been hard,” Hain said.

This week, Hain has been getting notes from her students. One girl told Hain she wants her to move on to first grade so she can stay in her class. Her students have been giving her letters telling her they love her and she is their favorite person.

She has managed to stay in touch with her former students as well. Some of her students who were 5 at the time she taught them are now 37.

The school has given faculty candy, cakes and other snacks. On Wednesday, when students were out of the building, teachers were given certificates to pick up strawberries from Patterson Farm.

Sally Schultz, a Knox Middle teacher and Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Teacher of The Year, said the school has been giving teachers treats through the week. She enjoys the goodies from the school, but her favorite part of the week is getting messages from former students.

“You realize you had an impact on them,” Schultz said.

Tyler Ritchie, a special education teacher at South Rowan High, said administration has brought teachers breakfast and lunch this week and sent out congratulations messages.

The difference for Ritchie this year is more parents take time to thank teachers for their work. He used to teach kindergarten and hears from parents telling him about the impact he has had on their students as they move through school.

Ritchie said teachers never know what they’ve done has been impactful, but hearing about how a student is doing a few years later helps.

Linda Mercado, a sixth-grade science teacher at Corriher-Lipe Middle, said she hears from former students often, not just during this special week. One recently someone thanked her for pushing them to work harder in class.

“When I was teaching them, they did not necessarily appreciate what I was doing, but realize now if I did not push or believe in them they would not be making strides,” Mercado said.

Mercado said she feels more exhausted at this point in the year than she normally would, but the challenges have helped her grow as an educator.

“We could have been defeated, but we had to accept this is the hand that we’ve been dealt and step up,” Mercado said.

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